Sentenced For Life

January 1893 – March 1893

* * * * *

With his trial looming ahead, Emmett Dalton was strongly advised to plead guilty to murder in the second degree. At the last moment he reluctantly agreed, even though he always had maintained he never fired a shot during the raid. Judge McCue was quick to pass a life sentence at hard labor.



Star and Kansan, Jan. 6, 1893: WASHINGTON, Jan. 4. - Attorney General Miller, being asked if he had any further information with reference to the truth of the dispatches from Coffeyville, Kan., to the effect that Bill Dalton and Bill Lipsey were acting as deputy United States marshals, said:

“I have word from the marshals of Kansas, of the Western district of Arkansas, Oklahoma, the Indian Territory and the Eastern district of Texas, and all deny that Bill Dalton or any member of the Dalton family or gang, has been appointed, or been acting deputy United States marshal for any of these districts for more than two years past, and each denies that Bill Lipsey has ever acted under him. Marshal Yoes, of the Western district Arkansas says: ’The Daltons were officers under my predecessor. I retained Grat Dalton until May, 1890. Robert and Emmet acted as posse twice in 1890, assisting in arresting three noted desperadoes. They were all considered trustworthy men until the fall of 1890, when their first unlawful acts begun. None of the gang were employed by me after that time.”

— Emmett Dalton has so far improved as to be able to walk around, and to use his wounded arm a little.


Star and Kansan, Jan. 20, 1893: The preliminary examination of Emmett Dalton came on before Justice Gilmore last Monday morning. It was held in the consultation room at the court house, and owing to the fact that the public had no knowledge that it was to take place there were but few spectators present. The prisoner walked over from the jail with the sheriff without attracting any great attention. He was neatly dressed, and had the appearance of having recovered almost entirely from the wounds received on the memorable 5th of October. There was just a perceptible limp in his walk, and the manner he used his hands gave no evidence that he had a crippled arm. As he took his seat he carelessly glanced at the Justice, lawyers and spectators, and during the whole proceeding manifested no special interest except occasionally whispering to his attorney.

The Independence Courthouse

Independence Court House

County Attorney Ziegler was assisted by J. R. Charlton, and City Attorney Fritch appeared for the defence. The defence made the motion to quash the indictment on the ground that there was a case pending in another court against the defendant, charging him with the identical offence he was about to be tried for.The State held that in the case in the district court, in which Dalton had his preliminary examination in Coffeyville, he was charged with murder in the second degree for the killing of Geo. Cubine, while the present action was for murder in the first degree for the killing of George Cubine. The motion was overruled.

Thos. G. Ayers, cashier of First National Bank at Coffeyville, was the first witness called. The attorney for the defense objected to taking any testimony on the same grounds that he objected to the examination, but the objection was overruled, and the taking of testimony proceeded with, ex-County Attorney Charlton asking the questions, the defense making no cross-examination. The other witnesses put on the stand were T. H. Brooks, agent for Wells Fargo express, Kirby Long, a clerk in Barndollar’s store, and Wm. McCoy, a merchant of Coffeyville. There was nothing new nor startling in evidence, the state only producing enough to bind the prisoner over to answer in the district court for the crime charged. A number of other witnesses were subpœnaed but were not placed but were not placed on the stand. No arguments were made, and Dalton was held for trial without bail.

— Mr. Thos. Ayres, of the First National Bank, at Coffeyville, was a pleasant caller last Monday. He still suffers severely from the wound received in his head during the Dalton raid. It has drawn his face out of shape, while his fast whitening hair and the deep lines to his face tell only too well the terrible suffering he has experienced.


Star and Kansan, Jan. 27, 1893: Wm. Dalton has been in town again.

That is the last mention of William in Independence. Obviously he could not arrange any great defense for Emmett, and there is no mention of him even at Emmett’s trial.


Kansas City Times, Jan. 28, 1893: DALTON GANG REORGANIZING. COFFEYVILLE, Kan. - Reliable information has reached here to the effect that William Dalton, brother of Robert and Emmett Dalton, is getting together a gang of desperadoes for the purpose of raiding the jail at Independence and rescuing Emmett. William, in company with a half a dozen others of his ilk, have been holding a rendezvous at Nowata, the same place at which the original Dalton gang was made up. The crowd is fully armed. Sheriff Callahan says he has no doubt that an attempt at rescue will be made shortly, and that he is prepared to give the gang a warm reception.


Star and Kansan, Feb. 4, 1893: As usual you must go away from home to learn the news. A Coffeyville dispatch to the Kansas City Times quotes Sheriff Callahan as saying that he has no doubt that an attempt to rescue Emmett Dalton will shortly be made. Sheriff Callahan is anxious to know what Ananias it is that the Times allows to fill its columns with such stuff as this Coffeyville dispatch, and some others that preceeded it - especially the one that represented the ladies of Independence as filling Emmett’s cell with flowers. This story like the others had no foundation whatever. Mr. Callahan wishes us to state that not only has he never said that he expected a raid to rescue Emmett Dalton, but he never thought there would be such a raid - though if such a thing should happen he would not be unprepared.

Speaking of the possibility of his rescue from jail, Emmett had said if his brothers Bob and Grat had been alive, it would certainly have been attempted.


Star and Kansan, Feb. 11, 1893: As there are about seventy five less cases on the docket of our district court than there were a year ago, the term would be short one if it weren’t for the Dalton case. And that may possibly not be tried. Most people here remember how it was with another famous criminal case that was to have been tried here eight years ago this spring. A dispensation of Providence in the shape of a mob took the case out of the courts and settled it down at the railroad trestle north of town.

— The idea that it will be difficult to secure a jury to try Emmett Dalton in this county is frequently met with, but it seems to me that there is very little foundation for it. That, among the five thousand or more adult males in this county a dozen good men and true cannot be found, who will try the case according to the law and the evidence seems to us a very violent presumption. Quite possibly the regular and special panels may be exhausted before the jury is secured, but after the limit of peremptory challenges is reached, it will not take very long to fill up the box.


Star and Kansan, Feb. 24, 1893: The colored man who was in jail the other day in default of the payment of about twenty dollars fine and costs remarked to his fellow prisoners that if they had let him alone he would soon have made that $20.

“H—,” remarked Emmett Dalton, “if they had let me alone a few minutes I would have made $40,000.”


The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, March 2, 1893: KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 2. - The police of Kansas City, Kas., are swelled up with importance because they have had Bill Dalton under close surveillance for several days. He is a brother of the Dalton boys who were shot in the raid on the Coffeyville bank Oct. 5 last. He has been at the Hotel Ryus in Kansas City since Saturday night. He came in with stock, which he sold at the stock yards. He has been under police watch at the instance of Cary Seemans, a barber who took part in the battle. When he heard that Dalton was in town he became alarmed, and, although “Bill” Dalton was always considered a reputable citizen, Seemans reported his fear that Dalton was on a mission of vengeance. Detectives were detailed to shadow Dalton. He spent the greater part of his nights in the gambling houses near the state line, and came out ahead of the game.


Lincoln Evening News, March 2, 1893: KANSAS CITY - Captain J. C. Green of Independence, Kan., was in the city. He said the trial of Emmett Dalton comes up next Tuesday, at the March term of court. Captain Green is confident that Dalton will be convicted, despite the hopes of his friends that 12 men cannot be found to act as jurors. Judge McCue, who will preside, is a fearless man, and says that a jury will be secured and that there will be no whitewashing.


Star and Kansan, March 10, 1893: It is not always the expected that happens. As we intimated several weeks ago might be possible, Emmett Dalton was not tried. He was brought into court on Tuesday and pleaded “not guilty,” and his trial was set for nine o’clock the following morning. He did not manifest the same bravado as on his preliminary but seemed a good deal cowed, and, admitting that he had no funds to employ counsel, the court assigned to F. J. Fritch the duty of defending him. It is due to Mr. Fritch to say that this appointment was not sought by him; but that as the mandate of the court, he could not disobey it, even though such service always has to be rendered gratuitously.

Wednesday afternoon strong influences were brought to bear on Emmett to induce him to plead guilty. Although strenuously insisting that he killed no body at Coffeyville, he had before expressed willingness to plead guilty to manslaughter. This the court would not have accepted; but he was given to understand that a plea of murder in the second degree would be considered. His eldest brother, Ben, a man who has always been an honorable upright citizen, was here and urged him to make that plea. He held out for some time but finally yielded.

When the case was called on Wednesday morning the court room was thronged by a deeply interested crowd whose every eye was fastened on the mild and pleasant featured, boyish looking young bandit who was being arraigned at the bar for the highest crime known to our laws. When he pleaded “guilty of murder in the second degree” Judge McCue proceeded at once to pass sentence, making his remarks to the culprit very brief and imposing the greatest possible penalty, imprisonment in the penitentiary during his natural life at hard labor. Emmett’s stoicism gave way beneath the unexpected weight of the penalty, and the tears commenced trickling down his cheeks while he protested that it was an unjust sentence.

from trial docket

From the March term of court criminal trial docket

Taking the prisoner back to the jail Sheriff Callahan lost no time in making preparations for getting rid of his notorious guest. A ’bus was summoned and, with Emmett handcuffed to Wm. E. Smith, who has been acting as guard at the jail for several weeks past, and Marshal Griffey, the sheriff started on the journey to Leavenworth, a journey which might have been a more dangerous one had it been longer premeditated. It was not more than thirty minutes from the time Emmett was brought into court room until he started over the road; and within an hour the party were moving away on the train. Justice certainly didn’t move with leaden feet in this case, and the annals of our county will be searched in vain for an example of more rapid work.

In taking leave of his brother Ben and other friends at the depot Emmett broke down completely and wept like a child. He took out his scarf pin and sent it to his aged mother, who lives in Oklahoma. His Winchester he gave to Sheriff Callahan, his pistols to Attorney Fritch, and his white cowboy hat to Billy Smith.

The journey up the road was not particularly eventful one. Crowds of curious sight-seers were gathered at every station to catch a glimpse of the bandit, of whom they had heard so much, and all passed through the car, as if it marked an era in their lives to gaze upon a live Dalton. At one place Harry pointed out Billy Smith as Emmett, and our friend will no doubt be remembered as one of the most villianous looking desperadoes they ever met. To the query what Emmett was going up for Harry responded “rape, and told them his sentence was five years.”

Beyond Holliday a crowd of youngsters entered the train, and when Emmett arose from his seat and made a move as if to start for them, they flew from the train as if shot out of a gun. The notorious Jim Legate [James F. Legate, a resident of Leavenworth, Kansas, was a well known politician, infamous for vote rigging and other dubious practices] came in there and told Emmett he wanted to see his face, and remarked “you don’t look like a bad man.” Knowing Jim’s history we doubt whether Emmett would have wanted to return the compliment.

About seven o’clock the party reached the penitentiary, where the sheriff turned over his charge of the past five months to the warden, commending him for his good conduct.

The wound in Emmett’s arm is not yet entirely healed. He directed that his horse be sold and the proceeds applied to paying Dr. McCulley for his medical services.

Mr. Smith says that Emmett assured him with the utmost positiveness and solemnity that the Coffeyville raid was the first expedition of the kind in which he was ever engaged [It was his first bank robbery!]; but Officer Shadley and others in the territory who are familiar with the career of the gang, are not willing to take his word for that. He also stated that U. S. Marshal Walker of this state owed his brother Bob about $1,200 for fees at the time of his death; and that it was the inability to collect their fees as deputy marshals, after doing a good deal of hard riding at their own expense, that first led his brothers into criminal practices. Finding that after they had captured a criminal and taken him to prison they were unable to collect the fees due from the marshal, they fell into the habit when they arrested a whiskey peddler, of collecting a fine, putting it in their own pockets and telling the fellow to go and sin no more - or more probably some more. We understand they they afterwards tried peddling whiskey themselves, and when arrested and put under $2,000 bail, jumped their bond and made the daring outlaw gang that became the terror of the border.

When in confinement here Emmett made friends of every one he met. There was nothing in his appearance to suggest the conventional villain. Scarcely more than twenty-one years of age, he looked you square in the face with a mild and pleasant blue eye, was genial and gentlemanly in his bearing and was not given to swaggering or boasting, though his determination and bravery were evident enough.

That a young man so well endowed by nature with the elements that win friends and would have assured him success in any honorable calling should have drifted into a course of life that made him a greater menace to peace and order of society than the most callous and depraved criminal that breathes the free air of Kansas to-day, seems a thousand pities.

Although his sentence is for life, it is a well known fact that, on average, life convicts are pardoned in less than twenty years; and we suppose that when Emmett has been a prisoner long enough to insure that he won’t drift back into his former life, he may hope to be free again. While he has doubtless already suffered more since he fell in Slosson’s alley at Coffeyville than if he had died there; and more already than he will in all the weary, monotonous years he will pass inside the grim stone walls of the state penitentiary, we are not among those who deem his sentence too severe. His crime was such a one as society must reprobate in the strongest possible manner, if not willing to dissolve in anarchy.

— It is a fact known to but few that attempts were made several weeks ago to rescue Emmett Dalton with hard dollars. The turnkey at the jail was offered $250, and subsequently $500, to give the bandit a chance to walk out. Sheriff Callahan reposed the utmost confidence in Mr. Sparke and told us he didn’t believe the gang could pile up up enough money to induce him to betray his trust. The offer was made by Emmett; the sheriff was in hopes to trap the man outside who was behind him, but in this he failed.

— The tax payers of the county are not at all sorry that Emmett Dalton pleaded guilty and saved therin the thousand dollars it would have cost to try him.

— Judge McCue was taken quite ill last night with chill and fever, so that a physician had to be summoned. He has been suffering some time with an attack of the grip.


Star and Kansan, April 14, 1983: The fee bill allowed by the county board in the case of the state against Emmett Dalton amounted to $256.95. The expenses for the guards, etc., outside of this will bring the total cost to the county of punishing this bandit up to about $500. And the tax-payers can congratulate themselves, even at this figure, that they got off wonderfully cheap. Had Emmett chosen to stand trial instead of pleading guilty, the trial would have broken down in a day or two when Judge McCue fell sick; and would have had to be recommenced at the next term. It would have been like hunting for a needle in a haystack, trying to get jurors for the second trial; and by the time it was over the county would have found itself confronted with costs amounting probably to not less than $5,000. Emmett’s plea of guilty was certainly worth several thousand dollars to Montgomery county.

Eastern Kansas



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31 May 2013